The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Maybe I'm back

JoeVa's picture

Maybe I'm back

After a long break, I'm now able to return to blogging, I hope ...

I don't want to bore you all with my baking problems (although I did with some of you, my "baking friends" ... you know Shiao-Ping!?), but I have to share with you what I think I've learned.

First I'll show you my last (I should say my first) sourdough loaf after a full month of bread thrashing.

[The loaf]


[The crumb - a half]


[The crumb - the other half]


[The crust]


Here my notes:

  • Use a good oven. My oven is really "cooked" (I showed it in THIS post), now even more than ever. Can I say I HATE it? It's crazy, about 50°C hotter in the back. Then, the temperature goes up and down and when it goes up the top heating element is incandescent.
  • Steam. The first half of the baking is crucial. An efficient steaming method must be used. I switched from my pre-heated clay pot to a not pre-heated stainless boule (in my case just a big steel pot). This covered steaming method is the only one I can use and I found really important to use a not pre-heated cover - before it gets hot, it gives the bread the time to free the steam.
  • Use a reasonably good flour.
  • Take care of the levain. Try to use it at the peak or a bit before.
  • Do not be a stupid house wife. First watch the dough than watch the clock.
  • The wetter is NOT always the better. You have to master the process.
  • Check your refrigerator. Find a spot that register the right temperature for cold proofing. It's easy to put the dough in a refrigerator that you think should be around 5°C and then you find that in the night it goes down to 2°C.
... that's the home baker life. Don't you think it's too easy to bake bread in a bakery where you have perfect flour, steamed deck oven, proofing cabinet, mixer ... ?
To do list:
  • Work more on the previous notes.
  • The subtle art of fermentation. One thing I have to better understand is what there's behind leaving, fermentation and dough ripening; and how to control these things. Maybe you think the bread I showed is ok ... absolutely not, I think it's mediocre: a plain, not so complex, full flavored bread.

The bread I baked was based on Shiao-Ping suggestions with the obvious adjustment you have to do every time you bake, with different ingredients and conditions: 85% bread flour, 10% whole wheat, 5% rye. 65% overall hydration. 25% prefermented flour (100% hydration white levain). Short mixing with S&F, 12h retarded at 5°C. I also used the "double flour addition" technique of SteveB (described HERE).

When I was shaping the loaf my sister was around in the kitchen and I asked her to touch the very puffy, smooth just shaped loaf. I loved the word she used - she said: oohh it's sooo (in Italian) bonzo.

And here, just for your fun (but do not joke about me too much!), I want to show you a loaf I thrashed ... I cannot show only good looking bread!




ehanner's picture

What a great post!  Your bread is stupendous looking. Perfection in every area.

Your list of Notes is reflective of knowledge learned the hard way, the best kind. Good to see you back JoeVa


Asa_Ashel's picture

Ho scoperto questo tuo spazio per caso attraverso i soliti giri di links tra un sito e l'altro. Non sono un esperto panificatore e nemmeno un grande cuoco, la mia passione verso la cucina è scattata molto tardi, quasi per gioco, ma una cosa c'è l'ho sempre avuta nel sangue, un'attrazione viscerale per i lievitati, per i profumi e gli aromi che si sviluppano in cottura, per la tonalità di colori morbidi e dorati di cui si rivestono e, da quando, molto timidamente, ho iniziato a lavorare con gli impasti, per quel rapporto intimo che ha un che di magico che si instaura tra la pelle delle mani e gli ingredienti mentre si impasta. Quando ho visto le foto di questo pane, i colori, le alveolature, la consistenza della crosta, ho provato un'emozione fortissima e non sono riuscito a trattenere una lacrima che è scesa inaspettata. A qualcuno potrà sembrare una reazione esagerata ma sono sicuro che, vedendo quello che fai, tu potrai capire. Ora sono curiosissimo di studiarmi attentamente anche gli altri tuoi lavori, che il bello della rete è questo clima di confronto e condivisione che mi ha permesso in poco tempo di imparare e scoprire tante di quelle cose di cui fino a poco prima ero all'oscuro. Scusa se mi sono dilungato tanto ma sentivo l'esigenza di esprimerti la mia stima. Sto portando avanti timidamente e nei ritagli di tempo un piccolo blog in cui scrivo delle mie "disavventure" in cucina, è veramente una piccola cosa ma se vuoi passare a vederlo mi farebbe piacere.

JoeVa's picture

Thank you for your kind words. Your blog is really beautiful!
(Grazie dei complimenti. Il tuo blog è molto bello!)


Susan's picture

Stunning loaf, JoeVa!  All that hard work paid off.

Susan from San Diego

SylviaH's picture

Thank you for bringing that gorgeous loaf with you!


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Giovanni, what a big difference between those two loaves---did you pick up some tips in Paris? Beautiful!

Good to see you back :-)

JoeVa's picture

Ciao Debbie,

no I didn't pick up baking tips in Paris, I mean something new.

The only thing I saw again (and I was really angry about this) is how easy is for those bakers to bake a good loaf of bread. They can use 1/1000 of my dough care, they just put their loaves in that beautiful deck ovens and ... PUFFF! It's not so easy for me, maybe I have to learn much more than I expect.

Yes, I know I should post a short report of Paris, but it will takes too much time ...



Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Well, your last loaf certainly went PUFFF---good job!

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

HI Joe,

What a gorgeous "first" loaf!  The blistering, the color, the grigne, the crumb, all look perfect.  I wouldn't judge it to be anything but spectacular!

Happy to see you posting again, and thanks for sharing with us all your hard-earned lessons. I find all your posts to be really inspiring.


dmsnyder's picture

Gorgeous loaf and spectacular crumb! And that's a 65% hydration bread?


JoeVa's picture

I checked again my notes and yes, hydration was 65% (I mean  65% +/- 1%, you know when you work with small amount of flour 1g scale in not accurate).

But what would have been if I had followed the exact (72%) hydration suggested by Shiao-Ping? I think it's all in the process, with that hydration I would have had to tweak my process and I don't know if I am able to do these adjustments.

Let's see the next (tweaked) loaf ...


wally's picture

I think not. That is a beautiful sourdough! Forget what you thrashed.  The crumb of your latest loaf is nothing short of spectacular.

Shiao-Ping's picture

I now believe you - if you are still saying the flavour of your absolutely gorgeous looking loaf is "mediocre," it is the flour that you used, that is not to your taste.   I have no doubt that anyone would love to have your loaf; I know I would!   

If I were you, I would test organic flour that use stone-milling technique, that is to your taste and standard.  Not all flours are the same.  Same organic, same milling technique, same species of wheat barriers even, but how do we know if they are the same?  No, we don't, not until we test it in our kitchen!

An outstanding looking loaf just the same!


JoeVa's picture

Yes Shiao-Ping, you read in my mind: the flour. I used a supermarket white bread flour, I know it taste like plastic.

I have just planned the same bread with another bread flour I want to test, just to explore the flavor potential. And you know I have also to come back to "my miche", my T80 is still there.


Mebake's picture

Beautiful Loaf.. Yumy, i can smell it through the pics..

BTW, don't thrash your not so perfect loaves, they make for a great toast you know. I have toasted much worst loaves, and they still tatse great. I believe bread is a blessing, don't waste it.

Good baking, nice tips too,

Thanks Giov.

JoeVa's picture

I usually don't thrash "not so perfect" loaves, I leave those for my family ... what a bad guy!

Yes, bread is a blessing.


salma's picture

Hi Giovanni,  Welcome back, missed you and your wonderful breads.  I can feast on your bread with my eyes even if you find it lacking to your taste.


Flo Makanai's picture
Flo Makanai

Beautiful loaf, Giovanni!

And that was so nice to meet you at Europain a week ago :-)

Have a nice day and keep on baking.

PS: I agree with Shiao-Ping and you, finding good flours is most important.

PS2: when a bread is not too good, at home, I usually make croûtons with : I rub the bread slices with fresh garlic, put them in a hot skillet that contains some (good organic) olive oil, and then a little fleur de sel (one of the finest sea salt from Guérande, in France). When the croûtons are ready (nicely toasted), they go into a huge fresh salad or on top of a nice fresh vegetable soup, we all love them.

JoeVa's picture

Ciao Flo. It was nice for me too, sometimes it's good to see in person the "baking friends" you speak with by mail/blog.

Croûton?! Nice idea, I never did it at home, but you remind me this great simple food.


Pablo's picture

Thanks.  What an inspiration. 

I have discovered that to me, there are three "t"s that are nearly as important as the ingredients.  Time, Temperature and Technique.  Good luck on your flour quest.  I am not happy with my flour either, but maybe there's a magic mix out there that will make me happy.  I only bake with flour, water and salt.  The think the "wild yeast" is exciting.

Thanks again for the inspirational photographic share, and your thoughts as well.


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Hi Joe,

I'm a little confused as to what exactly you mean by the term "pre-fermented flour" as in the following passage:

The bread I baked was based on Shiao-Ping suggestions with the obvious adjustment you have to do every time you bake, with different ingredients and conditions: 85% bread flour, 10% whole wheat, 5% rye. 65% overall hydration. 25% prefermented flour (100% hydration white levain).

If you were formulating a recipe starting with 1000 grams of total flour and 650 grams of water, what would the rest of the  formula look like?

Thanks so much.


JoeVa's picture

Take a look at THIS. I suggest you reading "J.Hamelman - Bread" introduction. If you still have trouble leave me a message.


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

I must have missed this the first time around, but thanks for the detailed clarification.